When I became Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee in January of this year, I had one primary goal: to ensure that America’s farmers and ranchers have the policies in place that they need to feed, fuel, and clothe the nation while ensuring stability and consistency for farmers, ranchers, consumers, markets, and rural communities. After all, agriculture is the foundation of our livelihood and the lifeblood of rural America. And, while our work will never be done, we are off to a great start.
Smith Calls on President to Make Good on Promises to Farmers
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After President Clinton spoke to farmers about the crisis they currently face, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Bob Smith (R-OR) called on President Clinton to begin matching his actions to his rhetoric by submitting to Congress the Farm Disaster Assistance Agenda he promised American farmers and ranchers in August.
"The President talks a good game when it comes to the farm crisis, but the fact is, he promised American farmers and ranchers that he would unveil a disaster assistance plan in August," Smith said, reacting to Clinton's speech. "That time has come and gone, and while Congress has passed legislation to speed up AMTA payments, revoke the President's grain embargo, pressed for expanded world agricultural trade, and as we continue to work on solving this crisis, the vacuum of leadership in the Administration remains."
Smith also responded to the President's claim that 'if there is one, single thing buried in the laws and regulations of the Department of Agriculture that (Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman) can do that he has not yet done to try to help farm income, he will find it and do it.'
"We've been urging the Secretary to use his authority under CRP and EEP to help farmers, and he's done nothing at all. I don't think it takes a lot of detective work to find things right under your nose, but it does take action to use that authority to help farmers and ranchers. The Administration has it, but has simply chosen not use it," Smith said
Smith was referring to a promise President Clinton made to farmers that his administration would use the Export Enhancement Program (EEP) to its maximum to secure foreign markets for U.S. agricultural products. The 1996 Farm Bill made over $1.5 billion available for EEP in 1996-99. To date the Administration has used virtually nothing.
In addition, a bipartisan group of legislators from the Northern Great Plains and Smith wrote to Secretary Glickman urging him to use authority under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to help alleviate the economic impact of the farm disaster. Six million acres are immediately open and in the next thirteen months another four will be available. The Secretary has yet to open these acres for enrollment.
In his speech, President Clinton also spoke of the need to "revive the rural economy through exports" and to "plan a better financial and trade system for the 21st Century over the long-term."
"For the life of me, I am absolutely amazed at how the President can look farmers and ranchers in the eye, knowing that 30% of their cash receipts come from exports, tell them he wants to plan a better trade system for the long term, and then absolutely refuse to support a vote on fast track — the very authority that is needed to make these plans a reality, and the authority he asked Congress for only last year. The hypocrisy is breathtaking," Smith said.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives.